I normally joke about the Braves and tell the Braves fans on the site how much they suck. It’s mostly true, but I just can’t joke about Albies anymore. As much as this is gonna kill me, it’s time to admit it.
Ozzie Albies is really, REALLY good at baseball.
The switch-hitting second baseman was ranked the #11 prospect by both MLB.com and Baseball America prior to the 2017 season and slashed .285/.330/.440 with 9 homers, 41 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 448 PA’s prior to being called up on August 1st.
Normally after being called up, a player’s production dips a bit while getting acclimated to the MLB. Well, Albies isn’t normal. After his call-up in 2017, he slashed .286/.354/.456 with 6 homers, 28 RBIs, and 8 stolen bases in only 244 PAs. His K% dropped almost 6% and his BB% raised over 2% and added a 112 wRC+ to a team who desperately needed offense. He ended the season with a 1.9 WAR in only 57 games. Extrapolating that over a full season, that would put Albies at 5.4 WAR over 162 games. Not bad for a first taste in the majors.
After 2017, Braves fan pegged Albies as the future, pairing him with Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña as the anchors in the lineup for years to come. For the first time in a very long time, Braves fans had something to be extremely excited about at the major league level. Albies had expectations that normal players would not be able to meet.
But then again, Albies isn’t normal.
Albies has started off the 2018 season on fire. After games on May 18th, Albies is 15th in the MLB in fWAR with 1.9, 26th in wRC+ with a 142, 8th in SLG% at .588, 7th in ISO power with a .310, and is 26th in wOBA with .380. Oh, he also leads the NL in runs, home runs, extra-base hits and total bases, 7th in OPS and OPS+. He’s 7.2 years younger than the average major leaguer. I’ve even seen him referred to as the best second baseman in the NL already, which is honestly probably true.
There’s really no area of concern with Albies except for his BB%, which sits at 5% which is the worst among the top-30 in fWAR.
The biggest surprise from Albies is the power he’s shown. His 20-80 scale grades put his game power at 30, which is Dee Gordon territory. He has 13 homers in 187 AB’s in 2018, extrapolated over 550 that would sit him around 38 home runs. This would have been top-10 in 2017.
How is Albies doing this?
In an article written by Connor Kurcon, he called Didi Gregorius the “King of the Launch Angle” linked here (http://sixmanrotation.com/didi-gregorius-king-launch-angle/) because Didi doesn’t hit the ball hard, but hits the ball at the perfect angle which is the main reason to Didi’s early season success. Albies is in a similar boat, as his average exit velocity (EV) sits at 87.3, which would rank him 98th out of 132 qualified hitters with a minimum of 100 batted ball events (BBEs). Albies is ranked 21st in AVG launch angle out of 136 players with at least 100 PAs, sitting comfortably at 17.5 degrees. Albies is living between 20-30 degrees on a majority of his batted balls (see graph below), which is a big reason for what he’s done so far in 2018.
Albies is above average when it comes to barrels, which is one of the reasons he’s having such success. Out of all players with a minimum of 100 BBEs (132), Albies sits 33rd with 14 barrels, 42nd in barrels/BBE and 39th in barrels/PA, all of these locations well above average. Basically, when Albies gets the right pitch, he isn’t missing it.
Albies is also CRUSHING fastballs His .688 SLG% against fastballs is 11th out of 258 hitters who have seen at least 250 fastballs and have at least 50 results.
Being a switch hitter, Albies spray chart doesn’t have the same impact that it would for a player who just bats from one side. However, Albies is still hitting the ball to all fields, pulling 42.8% of his hits, hitting 34.9% to center, and 22.4% the opposite way.
Despite his switch hitting nature, his spray chart is still thing of beauty. Hitting the ball to all fields means that pitchers can’t try and get Albies to pull a bad pitch and get weak contact out of him. It means he can take bad pitches and push them the other way, which in turn helps eliminate the shift against him.
He also probably leads the league in amount of times his helmet falls off while he runs, which doesn’t show any skill, just fun to mention. Albies definitely has some regression coming once pitchers stop throwing him fastballs as much, and the real test for Albies will be how he adjusts to the adjustments against him. But for now, Albies is painting a bright future for the Braves and their fan base, and I’m 100% on the Albies train.